2016 Strikes... a Chord
"2016 strikes again!" Whether it was the rash of jarring celebrity deaths, the disquieting state of global affairs, or the most gawd-awful U.S. presidental election in modern memory, 2016 proved to be the difficult "dumpster fire" it was quickly being branded as. But silver linings being what they are, (chincy, cheap, cellophane - yeah sure, I'll take it anyway) we've seen the early cultural fruits of dark times, as well as some worthy holdover remnants of any previous collective moods. Yes, as they say, art reflects life, but it also reflects our dreams - which stem from and break from reality.
This year's batch of cinematic offerings proved to be a worthwhile assortment for the most part, scoring wins with many a film about loss, the past, and battles both physical and social. This is my rundown of my ten favorite 2016 U.S. theatrical releases, with runners-up, and a few to avoid. Arriving at number one was a particularly difficult call, as I had a four-way gridlock for weeks. But once my top pick became clear, it was apparent that it was the right choice. Something to sing about, indeed:
10. I Am Not Your Negro
Samuel L. Jackson completely sets aside the bombast he's known for in exchange for a quiet yet haunting narration to Raoul Peck's historical essay documentary on writer James Baldwin. The late Baldwin, who's unpublished manuscripts are read by Jackson as the film's connective tissue, was an African-American intellectual who didn't fit into many socially ascribed boxes of his time (fifty plus years ago) or ours. Yet, when his voice, his words, and even his vintage interview footage speaks of race in America, it couldn't be more contemporary. I Am Not Your Negro is an expertly assembled work of personal passion, essential history, and compelling personality.